Rishi Sunak: The Green PM?

Olivia Marshall & Zanny Bexley
November 13, 2022

After only 44 days in office, Liz Truss resigned as Prime Minister of the UK following multiple failures and controversies. Her successor, Rishi Sunak, seems to have a more sympathetic approach to environmental issues, but what will his premiership mean for climate justice in the UK? His indecisiveness regarding his attendance of COP27 would suggest that he is still not prioritising the issue highly enough.

His statements from the original leadership contest last summer show that Sunak, on the surface, has quite progressive ideas for how the UK can combat climate change. According to his CEN article released in August, the PM is “absolutely committed to protecting our environment for future generations,” but what exactly does this look like?

In this article, he shows interest in investing in renewable energy, such as offshore wind, rooftop solar, and nuclear, as well as an initiative in insulating millions of homes up and down the country. Sunak describes how he wants to ensure the people know how to make their homes more efficient, at no cost to themselves. However, he fails to explain exactly how such a large, and most likely expensive, program would work, which raises questions about how serious he is in implementing this. He goes on to talk about the importance of green technology and jobs in the future, specifically mentioning Carbon Capture, utilisation and storage facilities. It seems he may be serious about these ideas, as in his role as Chancellor he put funding in place for four CCUS clusters to be developed by 2030.  

However, the climate-friendly persona may only be for electability, as his voting records show him as being far from the sustainable successor he claims to be. He has consistently voted against measures to prevent climate change, proving time and time again that he is willing to sacrifice morals for money. For example, whilst publicly supporting the development of nuclear energy, the PM has been absent to many votes on the Nuclear Energy (financing) Bill, which could hugely support the construction of nuclear power stations. 

His role as Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us a lot about his record in climate action, and it's pretty poor. Despite claiming to support the insulation of homes, his cuts in March 2021 led to the abandonment of a £1.5 billion scheme to insulate houses in the UK. His controversial decisions didn’t end there. He also made plans to halve the taxes on domestic flights which he announced the day before COP26.

Overall, it's not looking good. Rishi Sunak, whilst having some of the right ideas, has proved that he will sacrifice sustainability for cuts and money. We will have to wait and see how this new PM will shape British climate policy, for better or for worse. At Teach The Future we certainly hope that Sunak will give the climate movement the respect it deserves and use his new role to put Britain on track to a greener future.